Each morning upon arrival here at the wondrous world of Between the Covers I settle into my chair and I am often greeting by a surprising new item from antiquity left to me for further investigation by my delightful benefactor, Mr. Tom Congalton. Some mornings it’s an ancient, dust-covered tome, while on other days it’s a stack of yellowed correspondence in some nearly indecipherable hand. This morning it was a box – but not just any box. It was a box containing a book that I was told to catalog but not open. What was I to do?
At first, the task of cataloging an unknown book in a box seemed impossible. How would I determine its contents without the uses of some extra sensory gift or without turning to the dark arts? I studied the problem from every angle but it seemed an impossible nut to crack. Then by sheer luck – or un-luck as it may first have seemed – I spilled my coffee. Rushing to contain the quickly expanding puddle before it overtook some of the priceless books scattered about my desk, I moved the mystery box revealing ancient writing running along the edge of the package.
Suddenly the seemingly insurmountable task became mountable. Steadying myself for the difficult task at hand, I worked slowly to transcribe each character from the carton. The work was difficult, particularly as my first language is Esperanto, but through perseverance the job soon drew to its inevitable end. I scratched the final character onto my notepad before collapsing into a weary pile. After catching my breath, I looked at the message that lay before me: “The Eighth Day $25.00.” Eureka!
It seemed that the mystery box contained none other than Thorton Wilder’s
The Eighth Day. It was one of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s final books and the winner of 1967 National Book Award to boot. While the first part of the mystery was laid bare, the price brought up still more questions: Why $25? Wasn’t that rather expensive for a book in 1967? Maybe there was something special about the book itself?
I considered the problem from every angle with frustration mounting at each past hour. Finally, I could wait no longer, so I turned and asked Tom, who replied: “It’s the signed limited of 500 copies. Have you been screwing around all morning with that? Get back to work. I don’t pay you to play with boxes. Catalog, boy, catalog!”
So there you have it. We have a still-sealed The Eighth Day signed and limited in its original publisher’s box. The Mystery of the Boxed Book had been cracked!